When ad fraud is also a brand safety nightmare: Mangago case study

June 14, 2021 | 3 minute read
Sam Mansour
Principal Product Manager for Moat Analytics
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What happens when a highly trafficked site deemed “unsafe” by many advertisers wants to increase the profitability of available inventory? Enter mangago[.]me, a site that leverages domain misdirection and context spoofing to commit blatant ad fraud and subvert brand safety measures.

At first glance, the mangago[.]me website features Japanese-style manga comic books and graphic novels. But, to generate higher cost per thousand (CPMs) for less desirable inventory, mangago[.]me seems to be redirecting traffic to three hidden domains with completely different content that is not safe for work (NSFW).

The result? Advertisers who think they were paying to serve ads to engaged consumers interested in women’s fashion are instead serving ads on pages with X-rated and violent manga content. Being a victim of ad fraud isn't just a matter of lost budget—it can also pose severe brand safety concerns.  

The Oracle Moat team uncovers fraudulent schemes as part of its invalid traffic (IVT) monitoring service for advertisers globally. Oracle is publicly revealing this information to help mitigate ad fraud and to support digital advertising industry best practices.

When brand safety and IVT collide

In the world of online advertising, not all websites are created equal. While there are various factors driving what is considered valuable media inventory, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all evaluation strategy. There are, however, certain characteristics that are universally appealing. These attributes include high traffic, an engaged audience, and content that is generally considered “safe.”

Unfortunately, these characteristics are not always mutually inclusive. There are plenty of websites with high traffic and engaged audiences that many advertisers deliberately avoid because the content is inappropriate for their brands. These sites are often difficult to monetize, leading some to fraudulently misclassify or misrepresent the content to generate more revenue.

The ad fraud crackdown

The Oracle Moat team uncovers the suspicious activity thanks to its sophisticated IVT detection. Here’s how it works:

In cases like Mangago, site visitors click on content that then loads ads on what seems to be brand-safe women’s fashion sites. But these high-value fashion properties are simple template sites with stale content created solely to fool bidders, and to pass both cursory domain and keyword brand safety blocks, and even more sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) checks.

The manga visitors have no idea the ads are served to them on a different domain, and advertisers buying the fashion inventory are unaware their ads are appearing next to the potentially unsafe manga content.

Mangago uses multiple domains to launder the ad impressions. You can see the dual appearances of each domain below (left: magna content; right: fake lifestyle content to defraud advertisers).

Mangago ad fraud example from Oracle Moat

Oracle Moat measured an average of 4.5 million daily impressions for this operation. According to web stat provider Similarweb, the Mangago website is ranked eighth globally for the Animation and Comics genre, and averages 71 million visits per month. Similarweb’s top-10 websites in this category include:

  1. Bilibili
  2. Manganelo
  3. AnimeFLV
  4. Mangakakalot
  5. 9anime
  6. Cmoa
  7. Manga1001
  8. Mangago
  9. CBR (Comic Book Resource)
  10. Mangabank

Strengthen brand safety with IVT detection

Both ad fraud and brand safety are top concerns to brands and agencies investing heavily in digital. This ad fraud example highlights how employing strict IVT technology doesn’t just save precious ad spend, but it also protects brands from appearing on sites that could sully their hard-earned reputations.

Working with a trusted provider such as Oracle Moat helps ensure your brand is protected. Cutting-edge IVT detection is the foundation to advanced brand safety, context intelligence, media quality, and measuring true human engagement. Oracle Moat has numerous methods for detecting various forms of IVT, and it publicly shares ad fraud schemes and findings to help keep the industry safe.

Looking for more technical details? Read our step-by-step breakdown of Mangago’s IVT scheme.

Interested in learning more about Oracle Moat? Schedule an Oracle Moat demo today.


Sam Mansour

Principal Product Manager for Moat Analytics

Sam Mansour is Principal Product Manager for Moat Analytics. Moat provides an ad verification platform for brands, agencies, publishers and technology platforms to measure and optimize their advertising. With a history of developing cutting edge ad products for both the advertiser and publisher sides of the ecosystem, Sam is well versed in the tools and technologies of the trade. He applies his experience to his focus on General and Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (IVT) detection at Moat.

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